By. Dr. John DeGarmo
A few years ago, I asked a group of foster parents at a conference why they became foster parents. The answers I received did not surprise me, as so many of them echoed my own reason. The majority I spoke to on that afternoon told me that they felt called by God to look after His children. For them, and like so many others, foster parenting was simply answering God’s call, and to live a life of faith that demonstrated God’s love for all.
When a relative of mine asked me why I was so tired, I smiled and told them that sometimes it can be a little exhausting caring for seven children. With a look of non approval, she then responded and told me that it was our choice, and that we did not have to do it. At that time, I had three biological, one adopted, and three foster children. Our adopted child and the three siblings in foster care were all in diapers. You can imagine what our mornings were like, as my wife and I tried to get all seven children ready; breakfast, diapers changing, feeding babies with bottles, getting the older ones ready for school, and trying to make sure that my wife and I both looked presentable when we went to work.
My relative was quite correct when she said that I had made a choice. To be sure, foster parenting is a choice, a voluntary act, if you will. Foster parents volunteer as an act of service to a child welfare agency or government organization. What many outside of foster care do not appreciate, though, is that foster parents have very little say in regards to the child’s life, as the agency or organization that has placed the child in the foster parent’s home have control over every key area and decision regarding the child, and which will affect his life. We are choosing to take care of children that are not ours, and doing so in a selfless manner. Sometimes, these children might keep us awake at night; sometimes they might challenges us; sometimes they might resist our attempts to care for us; sometimes they might even fight us. It can be a daunting and difficult task, at times. Goodness knows it has been for me, on several occasions.
Nevertheless, these children need us to care for them. One of my favorite hymns we sing in our church is the old classic “Here I am, Lord” by Dan Schutte. Each time we sing it, the words penetrate me deeply, and I have to often swallow back the tears that threaten to replace my signing with sobbing. This hymn, first written in 1981, addresses God’s call to look after children, and hold these young people of his in our hearts. Just sharing the chorus alone with you brings a lump to my throat.
“Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord.
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.”
I have found that the general society does not really understand or appreciate what foster care is about. They do not realize what foster children go through each day, nor for that matter what foster parents go through, either. Even my own friends and family members do not fully understand what my wife and I experience each day as a foster parent, or really why we do it. I even have family members who question why my wife and I continue to take into our hears and home children who are in need, after all these years, and after all the sleepless nights and stress filled days. God’s call on my life, though, is a strong one, and one that my wife and I cannot ignore, as I am sure it is for you, as well.
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